I am just back from my very short trip to Muscat, Oman where i have spent the most precious years of my life probably during my undergrad degree. I am a half-pat, not a complete expat as i always had one leg in Mumbai where ever i went. Negotiation of internal identities is an eternal ongoing process. As i have lived in Muscat for so long every trip even this one after ages, seems very familiar and i had expected the usual, sometimes very positive as stability is appreciated in data packets from time to time in order to feel grounded.
I really got a ‘pleasant’ shock when the immigration officer when he wished me: ‘Welcome to Oman’, as this was the first time any one has ever told me that! The roads in Muscat seems the same, albeit better this time. New Intersections and Highways cut travel times from my residence to the main traditional shopping district called Ruwi, and Old ‘Musqat’ and Muttrah.
I had a nice ‘Fishy’ meal with my parents at the Yacht parking complex of Oman’s super-rich known as Marina Bandar which has a tony pool side and sea side pub which serves brilliant continental fare. It also one of the fistful of places in Oman which serve both beer and pork which are antithetical to the local cultural patterns. I dug into some delightfully yummy Beef Stroganoff with some rice, which i normally avoid. The Gulf has a tendency to load on the kgs as there is something ‘lazy lamhe’ about the ambiance there.
I guess the only thing which changes in Muscat are some new buildings like the new parliament or Majlis Al Shura complex or the vacant plot beside my apartment block where i used to play cricket in being occupied by a multi-storey structure. Memories seem relegated to Real Estate Market Dynamics in the upmarket Al Khuwair area in Muscat, as is in any other emerging metropolis in the Gulf.
I went with a couple of friends to a nice continental diner called D’Arcy’s Kitchen in the Shatti Al Qurum area, which is the happening diplomatic area district of town. Beside the beach again, and along a string of cool eateries is one of the reasons Muscat remains etched in my memory. The Irish Pub at the Sheraton@Qurum Beach with Fish n Chips plus a couple of pints, was refreshing too while watching EPL, a surreal experience where the culture is as different as chalk to cheese, inside the pub in contrast to what it is outside.
Muscat Airport which was one of the smallest of the airports in the Gulf is now in expansion mode and is turning in to an aviation hub with its diversification towards tourism as Oman is a negligible Oil Producer in contrast to its neighbor across the road Hatta Border i.e. The UAE. Every Gulf State is now trying to be an aviation hub with Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi already major hubs within one hour flying distance. There honestly seems to be a glut in a recessionary economy is not the best step forward going by economic rationale, but Gulf Rulers fueled by petrodollars buck the trend normally. Singapore Airlines is backed by the State as well, but is run according to market forces.
Every place reinvents itself however static it is. We sometimes need to move away from a place which we care about in order to notice the change. All that’s needed is a fresh lens. It was fun to re-engage with the place which i thought i knew pretty well. We can only know the place as much as we engage in. In a known place we try to detect and imbibe the finer nuances unlikely to be known to the first time traveler. Looking forwards towards re-exploring more explored territories.